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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Scissors Dance

I’ve been curiously reading Oddly Enough’s postings regarding what seems like a strange festival / competition: Scissors Dance Festival & Competition.

April 24th 2007 (tactlessly) posting was titled:The annual Defy Mom and Dad Festival!

In an effort to promote my defiance of the April 30th, One Day of Blog Silence, I am clarifying their irresponsibility of a beautiful culture event with the true (or as close as I can with internet research) facts regarding the Peruvian festival danza de las Tijeras, which has been passed on to each new generation from Inca ancestors.

The scissors dance from a western standpoint can be considered a intricate manifestation of art and physical dexterity. However, the Andean folk also known as the mestizo people who live in highland communities considers it a complex ritual where the main instrument of music accompanying the dance is the pair of scissors. Inaddition to dancing, dancers also take part in trials such as glass-eating, walking on fire or sticking wires into their body to show spiritual superiority.

Originally, Scissor Dancers only danced during the Christmas holiday calendar year and new dancers are said to be recognized only by others dancers at a very young age. One week before the 24th of December, dancers go to the mountains, to a secret location to train for the competition. The dancers are said to have a special deity, possibly called Apu or Apu Inti. Online research seems to list Apu Inti as the sun god in Peruvian history / culture.

In preparation for the festival dance / competition, the dancers offer their life and they’re dance to Apu with an contribution than consists of coca leaves, liquor, corn, potatoes and or wheat. In exchange for the dancer’s offering of his life, dance and contribution, he asks Apu to grant him strength and power to dance the danza de las Tijeras (Scissors Dance). In colonel times, many people thought the dancers were a kind of wizard or that they made ‘deals with the devil’.

On December 24th, the dancers appear in from of the community church wearing bright colorful costumes. Traditional costumes consists of:

A large hat sometimes with little mirrors and colorful strips of rainbow colors attached to a variety of different clothing is worn as a traditional costume. The hands of the dancers are almost always gloved in rainbow colors holding two metal poles which take the shape of a pair of scissors.

As they start to dance, they are accompanied by a little band usually made up of a harp, a violin and possibly a bass drum. As the musicians play the dancer dances to the same rhythm and performs acrobatic dance steps, twirls and jumps. As they dance, their scissors sings to the same rhythm of the music. I found one source that said the scissors symbolizes the male and female and the fight between the cultures who have entered Peru. In the dance the scissors sound. Further folklore says that the dancer would dance all day, for three days, and then disappear until next year’s celebration.

Some historical Peruvian research says that when the Spaniards conquered Peru, they tried to change the culture of beliefs and put an end to the ancient scissor dance. However, sly dancers only changed the name of whom they said the dance was dedicated to while secretly continuing the sacred beliefs to the Inca god(s) to avoid punishment by catholic Spaniards.


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